Living together with animals is silently but progressively coming to a new meaning. Humanity has been always defining itself in comparison with the animal world, looking for any difference useful at the purpose of recognizing a dominion over the world meant as a natural kingdom populated by animals. In the naturalist ontology (Descola), animals are considered as a mere mean, at disposal of mankind for the most various purposes: food, work (workhorses), entertainment (circuses, zoos), scientific experimentation, fashion (leathers and furs), public security (police and sniffer dogs), company (pets) and so on. In the present times, this state of things is undergoing a severe criticism. Risen among minoritarian groups of animalists, these instances have progressively earned consents becoming large enough to influence wide layers of the public opinion. The idea at the core of this turn is to overcome the classic naturalist paradigm, which doesn’t recognize a full subjectivity to animals, category which appear reserved to the sole human kind. Vegetarians, vegans, anti-circus, anti-vivisection, anti-taurinos activists are all carriers of a new sensibility towards animals, which has definitely crossed the borders of their affiliation, becoming “common sense”. A brand new “common sense” represents the actual challenge to the naturalist paradigm and to the institutions deriving from it. In particular, legal systems must face this ongoing ontologic turn, by reshaping themselves in order to respond to these new issues. In a nutshell, the current scenario represents a clear move from a naturalist ontology towards an animist one, suggesting the idea of a larger community of humans and not-humans living together and somehow in relationship, relatives by means of the law, relatives in law.The actual effects of recognising a legal personality (together with an ontological subjectivity) to animals are tremendously wide: animals are, nowadays, more and more, considered as “rights’ carrying subjects” and, for this, eligible to be protected from exploitation and suffering. What does protecting them mean is a matter of a huge controversy, which immediately turns political. A recent trial in Italy saw an incredulous restaurateur convicted for having kept live lobsters and crabs on ice, inside the refrigerator, with tied claws. Conflicts like the one just depicted are more and more frequent but, at the same time, they are not enquired in their radical income of signs of the times. Legal controversies over animals represent just the tip of the iceberg of new political conflicts which are well worth being semiotically reconstructed. This commitment requires a clear methodology and a wider outlook, interested on analysing tales, stories, practices ongoing on the wider scenario of society: political and legal aspects are strongly connected and theoretically inseparable. Facing these new instances is possible by betting on the idea of a new zoosemiotic approach, aimed at studying the new forms of meaning that living together with the animals is nowadays assuming. Instead of being interested in reconstructing a supposed animal language independent by man, Zoosemiotics 2.0 aims precisely at investigating the cultural issues that arise from the relationship with animals. Legal and Political systems are at the core of the interest of such a new perspective, since they constitute the structures entitled to manage and administrate the coexistence between subjects in a society.This monographic issue of the International Journal for the Semiotics of Law, entitled Animals
Original languageEnglish
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages318
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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